Few things match the excitement chapters feel when attending NerdNation, but how do you continue that when you get home and ease back into your normal routine? Chapter advisors Dr. Tommy Thompson, Robin Lowe, Dr. Rebecca Tate and Jackie Pierce led an Educational Forum on this very topic, and now they’ll show you how to turn inspiration into action with your chapter.
If your chapter was unable to attend NerdNation 2016, don’t worry — all chapters can use these tips to build awareness and support for the year ahead.
“Keeping the energy and pulse of a NerdNation convention can be difficult, especially when most of our students who attend will graduate in a month’s time,” said Lowe, from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. “However, the advisors at Upsilon Sigma charge not only the students but ourselves to light a NerdNation fire and keep it going all year long.”
The Monday after NerdNation, the Upsilon Sigma Chapter members wear NerdNation shirts to school, show awards to students, faculty and administration and share photos and videos of the trip. Outgoing officers meet with incoming ones to share experiences and encourage them to start planning now to attend the next convention.
Tate, advisor to the Alpha Rho Mu Chapter at Lone Star College-Tomball in Texas, which was just named the Most Distinguished Chapter for the second year in a row, plans a chapter pizza party to share photos and videos of the NerdNation experience. Upon her chapter’s return from NerdNation, it becomes all about celebration and awareness.
“The focus is on the immediate kinds of things that I do to let the students and advisors share their motivation, enthusiasm and new knowledge,” she said. “This works even if you don’t win awards, as long as you get good pictures and great video clips.”
Post videos and photos to social media to create awareness and send lists of any awards to college administrators and the public relations office. Tate has even collaborated with the mayor of Tomball to proclaim a Phi Theta Kappa Day in the city.
“The return from NerdNation is a prime opportunity to explain to your administration how a college’s reputation can be enhanced by its chapter’s success and also how to explain what a chapter’s international ranking is based upon,” she said. “In other words, use the weeks following NerdNation as a chance to create administration support for the upcoming year.”
Spring — particularly on the heels of NerdNation — is a great time for officer training. Tate’s chapter integrates mini workshops into regular chapter business meetings on topics such as the College Project, Competitive Edge, navigating ptk.org and more. For Lowe’s chapter, it’s a visit to Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi.
There, her officers meet staff, learn the history of Phi Theta Kappa and collaborate with various staff members on the Honors Study Topic, a College Project, scholarships and other benefits and opportunities.
“I know most chapters cannot visit Headquarters, but I encourage my fellow advisors to talk to your Division Representatives about a video conferencing session with Headquarters and your officers to give them a chance to meet the staff and see where all the magic happens,” Lowe said.
Sending a representative to Honors Institute — this year at Wake Forest University in North Carolina June 20-25 — furthers a chapter’s knowledge of the Honors Study Topic and unofficially kicks off planning for the Honors in Action Project. A good timeline for tackling the Honors in Action Project:
- Spring — understand Honors in Action overall
- Summer — training at Honors Institute and the identification of potential topics
- Early fall — chapter buy-in, research and project identification and planning
- Mid-to-late fall — project completion
- Winter — writing Hallmark Award applications
Chapters can also keep the momentum going by attending regional meetings.
“Our region, Mississippi/Louisiana, hosts a Regional Honors Institute after Honors Institute, so the excitement reverberates back to our region,” Lowe said. “The advisors and students who attend lead sessions about their experience and their knowledge pertaining to the study topic.”
One intangible benefit of attending NerdNation is seeing firsthand the larger Phi Theta Kappa community. This is something chapters can replicate at home through community service projects and hosting scholarship workshops for all students.
“The focus is on recruiting students to active membership by appealing to their desire for meaningful service and for scholarship preparation,” Tate said.
And of course, nothing creates a community like matching shirts.
“We wear our Phi Theta Kappa gear the first day of classes and every week to prove that nerds rule!” Lowe said.